Cucina by Wolfgang Puck cooks up new dishes
Overlooking the grand interiors of The Shops at Crystals, Cucina by Wolfgang Puck has some of the most striking views you’ll find anywhere in Las Vegas without leaving a building. High ceilings and contemporary finishes frame the space, drawing your attention to either passersby marveling at the Halo exhibit—a collection of columns containing water vortexes with ever-changing colors—or the immense Christmas tree apropos for the season (even if there isn’t snow outside). But the picturesque views are simply a backdrop to a memorable meal.
Begin with a drink while taking in the sights from your table as Cucina offers a variety of libations, including wine by the glass. If you’re more of a beer lover, explore the local brewing scene with a tap selection leaning heavily on Vegas Valley beers, including brews from Henderson’s Crafthaus Brewery and downtown Las Vegas’ Banger Brewing. But for a stiffer option, specialty cocktails include an unexpected treat in a pair of tableside barrel-aged cocktails: a robust barrel-aged Old Fashioned and a milder, more floral barrel-aged Negroni. Tableside presentations make everything taste better.
On the food side, chef Vincenzo Scarmiglia recently returned to Las Vegas at the helm of Cucina for celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck and has revamped the menu to reflect his culinary background. For instance, the Strip veteran—he formerly headed up the kitchens at Giada and Fiamma, amongst others—has unveiled his rendition of grilled octopus, slightly charred, fork-tender and hinting of heat from Calabrian peppers. And ravioli fritti are a revelation, crisp fried pasta packets of spinach and ricotta served atop a spicy pomodoro sauce. The simple treat is a must-order dish.
Explore new crostini offerings, such as the stracciatella, with a salty Sicilian anchovy whose strong flavor contrasts the mild stracciatella di bufala, cheese from buffalo in the south of Italy, upon which it’s perched. Eggplant crostini deliver a delicious dollop of caponata, a traditional Sicilian side dish consisting of chopped fried eggplant and celery in a sweet and sour sauce, while the beef tartare crostini layers an egg yolk, Parmigiano cheese, and garlic chips atop a rich beef tartare.
Another new menu item is the hearty heritage pork chop, served upon buttery mashed potatoes and garnished with a citrusy mostarda. Consider it the upscale, Italian equivalent of pork chops and applesauce your mom used to make. But not all dishes are new, as sea bass is a legacy dish, accompanied by broccolini strewn with housemade fennel sausage and finished with a sharp cherry pepper vinaigrette.
For dessert, delve into a traditional coffee-laden tiramisu or the airy vanilla zeppole—essentially Italian deep-fried doughnut holes—served with a raspberry coulis for dipping. But best of all is the lightly salted caramel budino, a sweet and salty Italian pudding accompanied by chocolate pine nut biscotti.
Cucina represents a welcome return of Scarmiglia to the Las Vegas Strip. Visit him at Crystals for his approachable take on Italian cuisine—with views to match.
The Shops at Crystals, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun.-Thurs., 11:30a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat. 702.238.1000